- HBO’s first “Game of Thrones” prequel series “House of the Dragon” premieres on August 21.
- Speaking with EW, cocreator Ryan Condal explained why the Velaryon family is Black in the TV adaptation.
- He said they “wanted to find a way to put diversity in the show” and he didn’t want it to be “tokenism.”
“House of the Dragon” is the first of many planned HBO “Game of Thrones” prequel series that will explore more corners and time periods of author George R.R. Martin’s sprawling fictional universe of Westeros and Essos — and it will introduce the first major house comprised of Black characters.
In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, coshowrunner Ryan Condal explained this “reimagining” he and Miguel Sapochnik made to the original books.
“It was very important for Miguel and I to create a show that was not another bunch of white people on the screen,” Condal told EW. “We wanted to find a way to put diversity in the show, but we didn’t want to do it in a way that felt like it was an afterthought or, worse, tokenism.”
House Velaryon features prominently in the political drama at the core of “House of the Dragon,” which will tell the story of House Targaryen’s fall from prominence after a civil war that left the family decimated about 200 years prior to Daenerys Targaryen’s rise to power many generations later.
The Velaryon family came to Westeros from Valyria (in Essos) even before the Targaryens. They’re helmed by Corlys Velaryon and Rhaenys Targaryen. For HBO’s adaptation of Martin’s Targaryen history book “Fire and Blood,” actor Steve Toussaint was cast as Lord Corlys Velaryon.
As revealed in the EW article, the decision to show House Velaryon as the first Black family with significant power in Westeros came from Martin himself.
“According to Condal, Martin toyed early on with the idea of depicting the Velaryons as Black conquerors who came to Westeros from the west,” EW reporter Nick Romano wrote.
The lack of diversity both on screen and behind-the-scenes of “Game of Thrones” has been a long-discussed criticism of the fantasy show, where nearly all of the major families in Westeros (with the exception of the poorly developed characters from Dorne) were portayed by white actors.
The few regular non-white characters in the show were Missandei (played by Nathalie Emmanuel) and Grey Worm (played Jacob Anderson), both of whom were enslaved in Essos before Daenerys freed them. The show faced criticism for not including more people of color who weren’t narratively connected to slavery, and for having Daenerys take on the trope of a white savior as she gained power in Essos.
Nearly all of the people of color on the show were also given the backstory of coming from the same place, the Summer Isles, save for Missandei of Naath. Then Missandei’s death in season eight led to a renewed conversation about the show’s handling of Black characters when she was murdered in chains.
Fans will have to wait and see how this brand new set of characters are given backstories and dramatic arcs of their own. “House of the Dragon” premieres on August 21. In the meantime, you can read everything you need to know about the series here.